Think of everything you do to lead a healthy lifestyle. You eat well, exercise regularly, prioritise sleep and practice self-care. You use natural products where possible and try and reduce your use of plastic, but how much thought have you actually put into how your home affects your health? Of course, with an increased awareness of sustainability, there is certainly more dialogue around the benefits of living a chemical-free life in all aspects, however, for many of us, implementing these changes are a different story altogether. In a new report released by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, authors Joseph Allen and John Spengler note that the typical person spends 65% of their lives in their homes—and ⅓ of their life in their bedroom. The paper, entitled Homes for Health offers 36 science-backed expert tips on how to ensure every room of your house is the healthiest it can be. “It turns out that heart health (and brain health and hormone health and mental health) is dependent on home health,” the site reads. Here’s how to make your home a healthier place, room by room, as suggested in the report by Harvard:
1. Kick your shoes off at the door 2. Bring in fresh air 3. Install detectors for smoke and ‘the silent killer’ 4. (Re)connect with nature and natural light indoors
5. Get the lead out (for homes built before 1980)
“The main activity for the bedroom is, of course, sleep. So if you have given your bedroom some thought, you’ve probably gotten yourself a comfortable pillow and blanket. But it turns out that there are many other environmental factors that impact how well you sleep. Optimizing your bedroom conditions for sleep in advance will help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and sleep better. Remember: sleep is the cornerstone of good health,” the report reads. 6. Train your brain and make this the sleep room 7. Black out the room (and ‘blue-out’ your lights) 8. Treat the air (and yourself) 9. Keep your cool at night 10. Block out the noise
“The typical person ingests about 50 micrograms of dust per day. For kids, it’s up to 200 micrograms. You’re probably thinking, “Not me, I don’t eat dust!” None of us do intentionally, of course, but dust nonetheless gets into our bodies.” 11. Vacuum. Regularly. With HEPA. 12. Don’t smoke indoors (better yet, don’t smoke at all) 13. Stamp out the candles and incense 14. Choose furniture and carpets without harmful chemicals 15. Properly vent fireplaces and woodstove
“While it is, of course, important to focus on food and nutrition, don’t forget that the kitchen environment can have an impact on your health, too. Cooking releases all sorts of wonderful odors into the home. It can also release a whole host of airborne contaminants that you’ll want to control. And with all that food comes the potential for pests (and with pests come pest allergens). Then we have to think about the quality of the water we’re drinking and the basics like fire safety.” 16. Cook with the exhaust hood on (and vented outdoors) 17. Keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach 18. Filter your drinking water where necessary 19. Control pests using IPM, not more pesticides 20. Choose glassware and cast iron or ceramic cookware
21. Control moisture by exhausting air outdoors 22. Limit the use of air fresheners 23. Detoxify cleaners and personal care products 24. Skip the antimicrobials 25. Prevent slips, trips and falls with handrails and non-slip mats
26. Measure and control radon 27. Do not disturb signs of asbestos 28. Dehumidify and inspect for signs of water issues 29. Choose a hard floor 30. Solve the solvent storage issue
31. Ditch the pesticides and herbicides 32. Beware of air from attached garages 33. Secure the perimeter 34. Tighten up your envelope 35. Be resilient
And for the most important tip of all?
Trust your senses.
“The world’s most advanced scientific instruments can’t match your own body’s sensing ability,” the authors state. “In our experience, when people report poor conditions indoors, they are often quickly dismissed as complainers. Our experience also tells us that these people are very often 100 per cent correct about the nature, source and timing of the issue they are experiencing.” You can read more about what each tip means over at www.forhealth.org. ‘Home for Health’ is just one of several reports conducted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Healthy Buildings program, with previous ones focusing on healthy office buildings and healthy schools.